I thought I should take a step back tonight and start at the beginning of my Tiny House journey. Way back to the very beginning, back before I knew what a Tiny House was and before I had this dream. Yes folks, it’s that time. It’s time to talk about money.
So I’ll admit I used to be bad with my finances. One doctor even tried to diagnose me as bipolar because I spent too much money shopping. (Okay, okay – in my defense I was 19 then and had attended a private Catholic school my entire life. I’d always worn uniforms! At 18 or 19 I finally got into clothes and started buying a lot of them. Sue me.) But it went much farther than clothes. I inevitably had student loans (and no degree to show for it), got into super fun credit card debt, and spent tons of money I didn’t have. I even had a car repossessed. I eventually had to move back home with Mom and Dad for a year to get myself back together.
I moved back out of my parents’ house for the final time about 5-6 years ago. I moved in with my (then) boyfriend into a townhouse we could (sort of) afford and started (what I thought would be) the rest of our lives together. I never thought money would be an issue since we were both equally bad with it.
Wrong. So wrong!
Fast forward 3 years: I’d gone back to school and finally received 2 degrees. I was accomplishing goals, was excited for the future, and my credit had risen about 100 points. He… hadn’t done those things. Suffice it to say things ended.
That was almost 3 years ago now. I was left with a $695 per month rent payment for a 3-bedroom house with 2 cats. My gas bill in the winter months often exceeded $300 per month. I had to find roommates… I had to use [shiver] craigslist. (I actually met someone who has become a very good friend this way, but I had to put up with 3 VERY bad roommates to find her.)
While I was straddled with bills (and more bills, and then some more bills) I had to find ways to cut costs. I want to give anyone who reads this my very own “Idiot’s Guide to Eventually Sorting Out What Money You Sort Of Have”. Catchy, eh? So here are my first nuggets of advice:
- Cut whatever bills you can in whatever ways you can.
- I couldn’t cancel my Dish subscription, so I called to haggle. Before I called my bill was around $85/month for TV only. With a few phone calls to customer service and a promise not to break my contract for the final year, I got my bill down to $19.10/month. (I get fewer channels but I kept my DVR!)
- Another idea is to combine your cell phone bill with friends or family members. This saved me about $30/month.
- Take advantage of special offers through work or online.
- I get a 20% discount on my cell phone service through my job, but they don’t tell you that when you hire you. You have to ask. Always ask.
- I use a website called The Penny Hoarder to find ways to save on groceries, dining out, and even credit cards!
- Save money on things you already do.
- Do you clip coupons? Subscribing to the paper is often cheaper than paying $2.00 on Sundays.
- Do you like to eat out? Search for discounts before you go, then decide where to eat. Base these decisions on financial goals, not your growling tummy.
- Do you like to go on special dates with that special someone? Check out Groupon or LivingSocial for ideas and cheaper ways to go out.
- Consider getting a second job. Even if it’s one day a week, maybe that keeps you from spending loads on a Friday night and puts $50 in your pocket.
- For the love of everything Tiny, keep a budget!!!
I’d like to share with you a sample of my budget sheet. I’ve left in some examples for you to see even though I’ve deleted most of the figures. It only takes around 2 minutes each morning to update my budget sheet and check registers. Please note that you can easily adapt this to Microsoft Excel, but I simply like the tediousness of updating it in Microsoft Word; it reminds me how much I hate spending money!
Using this budget sheet or some modified version has helped me pay off credit card debt, get through Christmas in one piece, and save for my Tiny. Hopefully it may help some of you as well!